What is assistive technology?

Assistive technology is any kind of technology and/or tool that can be used to enhance the functional independence of a person with a disability. Often, for people with disabilities, accomplishing daily tasks such as communicating with others, going to school or work, or participating in activities can be a challenge. Assistive Technology (AT) devices are tools to help overcome those challenges and enable people living with disabilities to enhance and have access to a quality of life, that may otherwise not be known, and lead more independent lives.

The mission of this blog is to serve as a voice of a constant researcher in the field of educational and assistive technologies so that the best products, strategies and services may be located easily, in hopes that they will then be delivered, taught and used to better the lives of people with disabilities.


Podcasts in Special Education

Podcasts are prerecorded audio shows of varying genres that users can subscribe to and download for offline listening.

Podcasts now has its own app in iOS 6, as it should!! I just don't think people realize how fun and powerful Podcasts can be. I listen to them all the time. It is a great way to get that radio talk show that you missed, hear discussions, talk magazines, educational lectures, hear more about those wonderful TED talks and their speakers (the rest of the story). But even further, how powerful with our auditory learners!

Podcasts app is the easiest way to discover, subscribe to, and play your favorite podcasts on your iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch. Explore hundreds of thousands of free audio and video podcasts from the Podcasts Catalog, and play the most popular podcasts, organized for you by topic, with the all-new Top Stations feature. 

Your students will benefit from a reliable source of material and they will thank you for it. You will be steadily building a huge bank of resources that you can use again and again, year after year. Get rid of those dated tapes and put their tools to work!

Features (Just the facts, from CNET by

  • Enjoy all of your audio and video podcasts in a single app 
  • Explore hundreds of thousands of podcasts including shows in over 40 languages
  • Try the innovative new Top Stations feature to find new podcast series in a variety of topics, including arts, business, comedy, music, news, sports, and more.
  • Browse by Audio or Video podcasts, or see what's most popular in Top Charts
  • Tap subscribe for your favorites and automatically receive new episodes for free as they become available • Stream episodes or download to listen while offline
  • Skip forward and back using simple playback controls
  • Turn on Sleep Timer to automatically stop playing a podcast while listening in bed
  • Share your favorite episodes with friends using Twitter, Messages, and Mail
  • Optionally sync your favorite episodes from iTunes on your Mac or PC
  • Sync your episode playback for seamless transition between devices
  • Requires a device with iOS 5.1 or later 
  • Optionally syncing episodes requires iTunes 10.6.3 or later
  • Streaming or downloading episodes requires Internet access over a Wi-Fi or cellular data connection
Podcasting in Five Easy Steps! provides you with a great 5 minute video on how to put together Podcasts, so if you are worried that you may not be able to do it, watch this video to find out how easy it really is. Podcasting in education has huge potential, but I feel quite a few teachers are put off because they think it’s a complicated business and that you need to be really good at computers to make a podcast. This video will show you how anyone can start their own podcasts in five easy steps. Hey, if nothing else, have your students learn how as a school project then they can teach you!

How can I use podcasts in teaching? Trust me, this is true UDL!! (Universal Design for Learning.) Teachers who already play around at podcasting generally use podcasts in a couple of ways:
  • As a way to deliver content to your students. Think of podcasts as lessons to take away! Once you upload a new episode it will automatically be delivered to your students without any further intervention from you or them. For those students who struggle with taking notes, now they can do it with stopping and starting. For those students who need to hear it a second time...they can listen as many times as they need to.
  • As a means to encourage your students to present their work. Think of it as a new and exciting homework project. Show your students the podcasting basics and they will produce stunning pieces of work that you and they will be able to proudly show off. For some learners, this just may be that equalizing ticket!

Other thoughts...Want to listen to your favorite radio shows and audio and video programs anytime? The iTunes Store offers tons of podcast episodes from independent creators. There is so much available for free. Just download iTunes onto your computer and be amazed at what you can have right at your fingertips. Do you need an iPod to use iTunes? Heck no! Listen on your computer or just burn them to a CD, use an iPod, iPhone, iPad, cell phone... Better than that, have your students download them onto their own MP3 players or smartphones. You know they have them! Show them a new way to use them. (Some sites have you listen right on their site.)  

A few sites worth exploring:
  • Audio Books - National Library Service for the Blind, Physically Handicapped and Blind and Dyslexic.
  • Barefoot Books - this is not a free site but is designed for kids and stories which help to develop and encourage imagination. Wonderful site if you have a little money to spare.
  • Books on Tape/CD - Visit the public library and check out some high interest books on tape or CD format. Have some old tapes that you still like? Turn them into a MP3 file.
  • CCProse has some great e-books with natural digital voice recordings that your students might enjoy. Many come in video version so you can watch and listen. 
  • Kiddie Records Weekly - Children's records spanned from the mid-forties through the early fifties of all-time classics. Many of these recordings were extravagant Hollywood productions on major record labels and featured big time celebrities and composers; these are records changed into audio files.
  • Learn Out Loud - a directory that features free audio books, lectures, speeches, sermons, interviews, and many other great free audio and video resource.
  • LibriVox - free audiobooks from the public domain to download
  • LoudLit is committed to delivering public domain literature paired with high quality audio performances. Putting the text and audio together, readers can learn spelling, punctuation and paragraph structure by listening and reading masterpieces of the written word. Read and listen via your web browser or on your mp3 player.
  • Night Light Stories is a podcast featuring original children's stories. You can download and listen to the stories from the links on the blog or download it free at iTunes.
  • One More Story has library shelves of very current books that use a human voice to text read text as it is highlighted on the page. There is one you can try and is worth using but the rest are by subscription only. Oh, but I wish these were free. Maybe something a parent's club might want to provide for your school? Worth trying!
  • PodioBooks – Allows you to browse their listings by categories and titles for free audio books. This is a wonderful site that has made exploring this venue an easy process.
  • Project Gutenberg - This web site is a repository of fiction and nonfiction stories currently in the public domain. Some of these have been converted to audio by volunteers. Look for the sound icon.
  • Read to Me has Children storybooks read aloud by celebrities and storytellers. 
  • Robert Munsch's Books - read by Robert Munsch, Spoken Text- Website that converts e-text (could be from Word, Adobe, or a text file) to an MP3 file which can be downloaded to a portable device or listened to on the computer. (You will need to follow directions for setting up an account.)
  • Speekaboo allows you to watch online for free, or purchase and download children's stories. There are a variety of nursery rhymes, fables and some trade books like “Arthur”.
  • Storynory - Free Audio Stories For Kids online; no need to download. Available as a podcast on iTunes.
  • Voices in the Dark - Audio books and stories read aloud by real people for free. These must be downloaded.
  • eText Resources are wonderful for all kinds of books available on-line. Some are with auditory support, some you will have to use with your own auditory software but this is a great listing to take some time exploring!

Okay, now you may be thinking..."I made a Podcast, now what?"
  • Add some sound effects... look for some great websites with free MP3 music and sound clips so your students (or yourself) can create exciting podcasts. Google ‘podsafe audio’ or ‘podfree  audio’ and you can find several viable solutions.
  • Save or copy the podcast to a CD or to a USB storage key. From there it can be copied to the computers of your students, and from there to their MP3 players. (Put those babies to work! You know they are in their pockets anyway!)
  • Save the podcast on your Local Area Network. Then let the students know how to find it, and they can transfer it to their MP3 players or listen to it directly from the computer.
  • Send the podcast by email. This works well only for short podcasts of small file size. Simply attach the MP3 file to an email message
  • Post the podcast to a Web site. Copy or FTP the podcast MP3 file to your web server, and link to it from your web page. (You can learn how to do this from your school's webmaster.)
  • Have your students swap podcasts. They will know how! Encourage sharing. Maybe even have a "Podcast of the Week" sharing time every Friday???

To learn more about podcasting in education, Explore: engage.wisc.edu/podcasting

Have fun! Let your students use that technology in school that they are using in the rest of their life. If they don't have that opportunity, you can give it to them. You can be that Cool Teacher:-)  

And then there are apps!!
  • Apps Gone Free has a listing of Apps for Podcasting. 
  • iScroll lets you listen to audiobooks while simultaneously reading the manuscript. You can search for words and phrases, place multiple bookmarks, look up content, annotate, and even share your favorite quotes, with audio, by email or on Facebook and Twitter.
  • AppStart has a listing a various audiobook apps worth exploring. 
Try a Google search on "Podcasts in Special Education" and you will be lost for hours!